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Obvious truths finally stated

October 18th, 2006

With Blair on the way out, the British military leadership seems to be in open revolt. Following the admission last week by the army chief that the Iraq war had made terrorism worse, there’s this

The invasion of Iraq prevented British forces from helping to secure Afghanistan much sooner and has left a dangerous vacuum in the country for four years, the commander who has led the attack against the Taliban made clear yesterday.

Brigadier Ed Butler, commander of 3 Para battlegroup just returned from southern Afghanistan, said the delay in deploying Nato troops after the overthrow of the Taliban in 2002 meant British soldiers faced a much tougher task now.

Asked whether the invasion of Iraq and its aftermath had led to Britain and the US taking their eye off the ball, Brig Butler said the question was “probably best answered by politicians”.

Not original, but significant by virtue of the source.

The only reading I can make of this is that the British top brass are desperate for a quick withdrawal from Iraq, as soon as Blair goes, and are applying as much pressure as possible (even at the cost of violating conventions about military comment on political issues) to ensure that Gordon Brown does not succumb to threats or blandishments from Washington.

Update Brigadier Butler claims he was misquoted

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  1. conrad
    October 18th, 2006 at 20:06 | #1

    I hope the Australian army can learn via example.

  2. pre-dawn leftist
    October 18th, 2006 at 20:16 | #2

    Interesting – and it certainly adds weight to Kim Beazleys argument that while Iraq was the wrong war, Afghanistan is the right one.

    I suspect we will soon see Howard desperately searching for a way to moonwalk backwards out of Iraq – without anybody noticing.

  3. Chris Daley
    October 19th, 2006 at 03:02 | #3

    Neither Afghanistan nor Iraq are ‘right wars’. They are, in fact, both countries, but that’s beside the point. Afghanistan was retalliation for the September 11 attacks and obstensibly to ‘get’ Osama. The unseating of the Taliban was very much a by-product. The situation that exists there today is not all that different from Iraq, where both are still occupied with the intention of establishing a compliant state that will easily bend to that of US intentions.

    This was achieved early, as it was in Vietnam, it’s just that the people, to quote George W. Bush ‘just aren’t getting onboard’.

    The other thing both wars have in common is that the enemy was a former puppet of Washington that had turned on their masters. Why Afghanistan is proving so difficult to get a grip on is that the job was sub-contracted to Pakistan’s SS-like ISI intelligence service.

    I was talking about this tonight with a Pakistani colleague, who in hushed tones expressed to me his belief that the ISI was now totally out of control and fighting a shadow war against the CIA through their proxies the Taliban. He was deeply troubled by what he called ‘our duplicitous nature’ meaning Pakistan’s willingness to be both enemy and ally at the same time.

    We both agreed that with Blair on the way out, his generals, who in contrast to their US counterparts, seem to be taken seriously are feeling bolshie enough to call it as they see it. You can be sure as soon as Blair is gone and the Republican Party loses its senate majority, that they will start saying the same thing about Afghanistan.

    The reason they’re silent on Afghanistan for now is that at least in the minds of some, that particular invasion had some moral integrity but Iraq is now being seen for the illegal war that it is. Politically, that is, anybody with half a shred of decency called it for what it was before it even started.

  4. Graeme Bird says:
    October 19th, 2006 at 08:27 | #4

    No it hasn’t made things worse. Thats just idiocy.

  5. wilful
    October 19th, 2006 at 08:59 | #5

    Ho Chi Minh was never a puppet of the USA.

  6. October 19th, 2006 at 09:28 | #6

    Hi John,

    I don’t know what is happening in Afghanistan. But the situation in Iraq seems clear to me. The US and the British have been defeated in the sense that they cannot win. There are two main opponents in Iraq. Syrian and Iranian intelligence. Although they are not directing the insurgency they seem to be keeping the cauldron boiling.

    It is difficult to understand the politics of Iran since the political environment there is complex and decision making does not seem to be very hierarchical. You have various lobbies such as the pro hakim lobby that wants a Shiite state in the south of Iraq that will eventually be federated with Iran (that to me is a fantastical dream). Then there is the Hizb Allah lobby which for its own reasons opposes a breakup of Iraq and would like to coordinate the Iraq strategy with Syria. My view is that the Hizb Allah lobby has the upper hand.

    So an important perspective is that of Syria, which in my opinion is running a Lebanon-civil-war-strategy in iraq. This is a strategy that tries to create a situation in which the world (especially the US) internalizes the fact that only Syria can help resolve the problems in Iraq. The idea is to maintain a low level civil war and an ongoing longrun low level partisan resistance to occupation until the US throws its hands in the air and engages in negotiations with Syria over Iraq. Syria is bargaining on being more patient than the US.

    If the US wants to withdraw now, then it will have to cut an expensive deal with Syria and another deal with Iran. If it does that, then in my opinion we will see the civil war in Iraq repeating the dynamics of the Lebanese civil war in the late 1980’s. Militias will turn into criminal gangs collectively profiting from corruption. Eventually, as a result of Syrian intervention each sectarian militia will split into two. One that is overtly pro-Syrian and one that is “independent.” There will be intra-sectarian wars that disarm the “independents.” Shiite militias disarm Shiite militias and Sunnah militias disarm say the al-Qaida branches of the insurgency. All that will be left are armed pro-Syrian militias with the standing Shiite militia being pro-Syrian as well as pro Iranian.

    If the US does not negotiate with Syria and Iran then things will simply gradually get worse. Including spectacular sectarian blood letting, sponsored by the two intelligence services. Anything short of a regime-changing attack on Syria and Iran will not change the situation on the ground. However, Syria and Iran understand that the US is not willing to take this gamble and that even if it does, it is likely that they will not be successful this time.

    I’m perhaps placing too much emphasis on Syria here. But by Syria I mean both the government of Syria and the pro-Syrian lobby in Iran, which I call the Hizb Allah lobby. I however guess that the real (not the idiots in the Washington Institute for Near east Studies, who got us into this mess) Middle East experts agglomerating around James Baker are advising the Iraq Study Group to talk to Syria and Iran.

    [The thing that annoys me the most about discussing Iraq is that the discourse (as one naturally expects) is becoming party political and totally partisan. Even amongst Middle East Studies specialists. I am not a MES specialist and of course I’m disgusted by the Bush administration but I think that finding the appropriate Iraq policy is so important that I welcome ideas from within the republican party. So long as the people involved in advocating war in Iraq make absolutely no contribution to the debate. ]

  7. observa
    October 19th, 2006 at 12:02 | #7

    “Brigadier Ed Butler, commander of 3 Para battlegroup just returned from southern Afghanistan, said the delay in deploying Nato troops after the overthrow of the Taliban in 2002 meant British soldiers faced a much tougher task now.”

    So it was NATO troops that were the problem? What the sluggishness of Old Europe to get its act together? Well fancy that!

    Anyhow, personally I think the overall problem always was and is the mediaeval Religion of Peace dear Brigadier.

  8. observa
    October 19th, 2006 at 12:22 | #8

    More obvious truths being stated
    which concurs with a recent survey of Indonesian Muslims that shows 10% of them fully support the Bali bombings, the first of which we all recall was prior to Operation Iraqi Freedom.

  9. peter tuck
    October 19th, 2006 at 14:46 | #9

    I feel very sorry for the NATO troops trying to pacify southern Afghanistan, with the latest aerial bombing inevitably killing civilians with the inevitable response that brings on. Perhaps at the back of the Brits minds must be the failure of their colonial predecessors in trying to extend British Rule to the tribal North West Frontier region, near enough to where they are now. The non British Nato forces, particularly the Canadians must be fairly demoralised having gone in to keep the peace but now finding themselves in a Soviet style Mujihidean standoff. As others have suggested it is a no win situation and the Bush/Blair Iraqi adventure has much to answer for.

  10. rossco
    October 19th, 2006 at 15:14 | #10

    I look forward to seeing Howard and Downer dancing around after the US does a cut and run from Iraq after the November Congress elections. Might not be a complete withdrawal but will be a significant change in direction to reduce US exposure.

  11. October 19th, 2006 at 15:54 | #11

    rossco – “I look forward to seeing Howard and Downer dancing around after the US does a cut and run from Iraq after the November Congress elections. Might not be a complete withdrawal but will be a significant change in direction to reduce US exposure.”

    I don’t think that this will happen. I believe the strategy is to ‘stay the course’ in Iraq until the next presidential election. Then the Iraq pullout/cleanup/cut and run whatever you like to call it will be the next administration’s problem. They will of course inherit all blame for the mess and the present administration will escape scot free.

    This is totally OK as long as you can accept the 100 or so American casualties per month. The fact that people are dying to preserve an administration’s reputation is obscene. Of course Iraqi casualties are so much less of a bother that nobody bothers to count them officially and any studies showing large casualty figures are discredited.

  12. October 19th, 2006 at 16:54 | #12

    John, unfortunately like so many on the left, you have selectively quoted from what was a very extensive transcript. Blair in his subsequent press conference highlighted that when read in its context he agreed with everything that was said!!! It is interesting that you decided for your own reason to leave this rather significant point out.

    So can you please explain to me why so many people who wanted Saddam to stay in power and are happy to see the west walk away from supporting the people of Iraq got so excited about this???

    Whether you were for or against the war, I find it disturbing that so many writers above clearly really want to see the attempt at democracy fail (although Rabee made some well thought out remarks). Everyone has the right to agree or disagree with a war but don’t let your hatred of Bush, Howard and Blair ignore what is a much bigger issue.

    What do you really think would happen in Iraq if Coalition forces left now? The naivete of the left in relation to the war on terror never ceases to amaze me.

  13. jquiggin
    October 19th, 2006 at 17:13 | #13

    Matt, I don’t think Blair has responded to the statement I quoted. His press conference was in response to the earlier remarks by the head of the Amry to which I made a passing reference.

    “What do you really think would happen in Iraq if Coalition forces left now? The naivete of the left in relation to the war on terror never ceases to amaze me.”

    Obviously, the outcome will be disastrous. The outcome if they stay longer will probably be even worse. Doesn’t this suggest to you that the invasion was a bad idea?

  14. October 19th, 2006 at 17:25 | #14

    Matt – “What do you really think would happen in Iraq if Coalition forces left now? The naivete of the left in relation to the war on terror never ceases to amaze me.”

    The naivete of the neo-cons in equally breathtaking. To think you could invade a country of 26 million with 125 000 troops who would then be garlended with flowers like France in 1944 is vastly more naive and stupid. However in this case it is more cupible because the correct answers were always available however the neo-cons were not listening and still are not.

    The ‘left’ as you term it, however anti-war sentiment extends across all political boundaries, said all along that the invasion of Iraq would be a total disaster and was wrong. Now having done it the ‘right’ has backed us into a corner where ANY action is wrong. Pulling out is wrong as is staying.

    I guess it is up to you how many people have to die before we face reality that Iraq is a mess and will be a mess no matter what we do. Meanwhile the toll of the people actually unfortunate enough to be on the sharp end of the naivete and stupidity of the right continues to climb. How many young people have to die?

  15. October 19th, 2006 at 17:28 | #15

    John, firstly, it is good to see that you publish comments from across the political divide. I do the same, unfortunately many do not.

    You have highlighted my point in your last sentence. Too many people on the left and the right for that matter are debating history, which is the event of going to war. I think it was right, you do not, frankly only history will determine who was right.

    The point is what we do now. There is no way you can say with any certainty that staying longer will make it worse, again you could be right or wrong. What is a given, which we all can agree on, is that a pull-out now would be disastorous.

  16. October 20th, 2006 at 00:12 | #16

    The simplicity of the phrase “the war on terror” never ceases to amaze me, nor does the ready acceptance of it as in any way meaningful by otherwise intelligent people. The war on “terror” can be simply and quickly won by providing free valium to anyone who feels a little bit terrified. The phrase is obviously and profoundly meaningless. The war on terrorists has been not only lost – the invasion of Iraq has magnified the problem beyond Al Qaeda’s wildest dreams – as the NIE has reported.

    As for the invasoin of Iraq itself, there is nothing left of any of the lies we were told were the reasons for going.

    – The only terrorists in Iraq are there – and came there – because the coalition is there. (Insurgents and “freedom fighters” and those fighting sectarian battles ought not be confused with terrorists.)

    – There were no WMDs

    – There was no uranium from Niger

    – There were no links to Al Qaeda, as the NIE made clear once and for all recently.

    – There were no links to 9/11, as the NIE made clear once and for all

    – Removing Saddam has not made Iraq a better place.

    – The west’s much vaunted gift of an “Iraqi-style” democracy is not only not working but is disintegrating at an alarming rate into sectarian brutality and civil war.

    – The Johns Hopkins/Lancet study suggests that more innocent civilians have been killed in Iraq, in just three years, as a result of the coalition’s invasion than Saddam managed to kill in 23 years.

    – Torture may be worse now than in Saddam’s day, according to the UN rapporteur, Manfred Nowak, in September.

    – The price of oil has not gone down to Rupert Murdoch’s hoped-for $25 a barrel (“25 a barrel sounds good to me”) but has instead soared into the 60s and 70s.

    – Removing Saddam has not made the world a safer place. In fact, as the NIE says, the world is now less secure and terrorism stronger.

    Australian Foreign Minister Downer says the coalition’s leaving would give heart to “the terrorists”. Which terrorists exactly? There is no one body of terrorists who are working together. The violence there is being perpetrated by sectarian gangs, and numerous groups and individuals who are not necessarily connected in any way. The place is a mess precisely and only because the coalition invaded. (As Hitler said, “The leader of genius must have the ability to make different opponents appear as if they belonged to one category.â€?)

    What is true is that it is the continued presence of the coalition that gives heart to all these people.

    What is true is that real terrorist groups have no better recruiting poster than the continued presence of the occupying forces. The catastrophe will be worse if we stay than if we go (and the weasel spin now being perpetrated by Canberra is breathtaking – leaving Iraq would mean JI in Indonesia would suddenly become a much greater threat. Let’s frighten the populace. It worked for Goering: “The people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger.” )

    Downer’s and John Howard’s biggest problem with leaving is surely that it would be an admission of failure and, perhaps worse, the fact that the “terroristsâ€? would laugh at us.

    I still wait for anyone who was a promoter of the carnage – whether the death toll is 50,000, 655,000 or a million – to stand up and say “we need to reflect on the implications of this for who we are and have becomeâ€?. Even perhaps to say, “That would be too many and too high a price for us to have forced others to sacrifice for our fears and our arrogance. We have a river of blood on our hands. We were wrong and are ashamed.â€?

    But I suppose not… As we know, John Howard is as incapable of saying he made a mistake as he is of saying he is sorry.

    Let us console ourselves with George Bush’s platitude that, “I am, you know, amazed that this is a society which so wants to be free that they’re willing to — you know, that there’s a level of violence that they tolerate.â€? Ah, well, that’s all right, then.

    “The truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.” – Goebbels

  17. October 20th, 2006 at 00:47 | #17


    I think that one priority is to distance those who got us into this mess from the debate on how to get us out of this mess. Importantly the individuals in think tanks (such as the Washington Institute for Near Easter Studies) who advocated the racist policies that got us into Iraq and that have shaped the US policy on the Middle East. They have to be marginalized.

    There is a wealth of expertise on the Middle East in US universities. But these professors, teachers, and researchers have witnessed a campaign to discredit them by non-scholarly think tanks whose aim was to remove scholarly voices of reason and replace them by people advocating a racist world view.

    If we want to solve the Iraqi problem, then it’s time to listen to our real experts in Middle Eastern Studies at Columbia and Michigan, for instance. It’s time to send the pretend experts back to the dark obscurities that they crawled out of.

    You can pick the pretend expert, he is the one advocating racism and it is this racism that has emerged as the dominant intellectual framework of US policy in the Middle East. Time to change that intellectual framework!

  18. milano803
    October 20th, 2006 at 04:38 | #18

    Matt, I agree with you that history will determine whether the war was right or wrong. We’re much too close to it still to determine that now and as you rightly point out there is too much personal hatred of Bush, Blair and Howard for some people to see the situation clearly at this point. I don’t like or dislike any of them. But I would like to see the Iraqi people at least have some chance of setting up a successful government and economy. There’s no chance of that happening if the coalition abandons Iraq.

    I agree with the British military personnel stepping forward to say that the coalition has made terrorism worse. It was never likely that the people who want control of Iraq’s government without being elected, were going to peacefully allow elections and then support whatever government resulted. So, it seems obvious that elections would increase terror activity. But that’s hardly reason to abandon the Iraqi people themselves.

  19. jquiggin
    October 20th, 2006 at 07:07 | #19

    Matt, I think we can all agree that the situation is already disastrous, and is going to get worse for some time to come whatever the US does now. And nearly everyone now agrees that there will be a withdrawal – it’s only a matter of when and how.

    As Rabee says, a first step is to get rid of the incompetents and liars who created the mess and who have misjudged every step since. Then we can start looking over the unappealing options such as partition, a new strongman, a belated appeal to Syria and Iran and so on with some hope that the choice will at least be competently executed.

  20. observa
    October 20th, 2006 at 07:59 | #20

    Same problem different venue
    The truth is, the critics of Iraq, who would support Afghanistan, are most likely only a quick pullout away from the same dilemma, Bush, Blair and Howard are facing now in Iraq. That’s their dilemma and all of ours of course.

    There is another internal dilemma we face typically illustrated by example here

    That’s because of a fundamental divide between us and Islam described here

    Well not all of Islam as we have seen by the example of the Canadian moderates, but enough of Islam to engulf us all in an increasingly globalised world. You don’t need vast majorities to foment great movements and concomitant perils. Just enough committed brownshirts in the streets to eventually carry the day. That is the problem we face in Iraq and Afghanistan right now and it has much broader ramifications. The brownshirts of Islamofascism are in the streets and carrying the day. The clash of civilisations has well and truly begun. There is no turning back now. We have to understand completely what is at stake. Their civilisation or ours. The feeling you have now is probably the same feeling many of our parents had in the late 1930s.

  21. October 20th, 2006 at 08:48 | #21

    “That’s because of a fundamental divide between us and Islam described here

    OH my!!!

    Have people who blabber these views actually read anything written by Thomas Aquinas? If they did they will understand that he was continuing a discourse in Islam and eastern Judaism and eastern Christianity on the relationship between Greek philosophical traditions and theology.

    People writing about the western Grand Narrative, “we are the Greeks and they are the Barbarians”, should familiarize themselves with Ibn-SÄ«nÄ?, Al-GhazÄ?lÄ«, Ibn-Rushd, Ibn-Gabirol, Moses ben Maimon, Al-FÄ?rÄ?bÄ«, Ibn-BÄ?jja, IsḥÄ?q ibn-SulaymÄ?n IsrÄ?`Ä«lÄ«, Qusá¹­Ä? ibn-LûqÄ?, Al-KindÄ«, Muḥammad ar-RÄ?zÄ«, Ibn-Masarra, Miskawayh, Ibn-Ṭufayl.

  22. observa
    October 20th, 2006 at 11:20 | #22

    I don’t know about grand Western narratives, but what I do know now is there seems to be general agreement that Saddam was the best option, between those who so obviously understood it 3 years ago and those who have come to recognise that logical position now. Say it any way you like but SADDAM WAS THE BEST OPTION for all you Muslims in Iraq. You got that Mussies! Now if we can just learn to say with equanimity the mullahs are the best option for Iranians and the Taliban are the best option for Afghanis and Hamas are the best option for Palestinians and in Sudan Somalia…..?

  23. stoptherubbish
    October 20th, 2006 at 11:39 | #23

    So observa, we will soon be moving onto the next mobilisation for war, once the pullout from Iraq is complete eh? That is the war of course, of the ‘West v the Rest, this time in the shape of ‘us’ against 1.2 billion muslims Cripes! That one’s going to be tricky!

    Onto more serious and reality based topics, I too would like to see an extended investigation into Pakistan, and the role of its secret service, not only in the current imbroglio in Afghanistan, which looks like turning into what every imperial adventure in that place has turned into-tears before bedtime, but also into what if any, connections may be found between our new best friends in Pakistan and the the oBL crowd, formerly of Tora Bora, latterly I understand, of Wazirastan, province of our new best friends.

  24. brian
    October 20th, 2006 at 13:59 | #24

    Rabee,quite correctly argues for the USA to take the advice of it’s experts…people like the emminent and articulate Prof. Juan Cole,whose blog “Informed Comment” is surely one of the most”informed” in the blogosphere.
    But I remember that when Cole,who is at Michigan U.recently was offered a senior posting at Yale,,his posting was bitterly opposed by the Zionist Lobby…notably Daniel Pipes,who is one of the Jewish lobby principal hitmen,and Cole was not able to take up his posting.
    I read Cole,and cannot remember any anti-semitic remarks. He is of course critical of Israeli policy,and that’s the rub!
    Expertise on the Middle East is not the issue..In the eyes of “The Lobby” it is ones attitude to Israel that counts,and that in turn distorts all US policy in the Middle East…and towards the wider Islamic world. That is the reciepe for continuing US disaster s

  25. observa
    October 20th, 2006 at 14:25 | #25

    “So observa, we will soon be moving onto the next mobilisation for war..”
    No, that really depends on the direction of the fundies thereafter. What is clear is our military are calling it (In both Iraq and Afghanistan if you listen carefully to them) Basically they’re saying what’s the point? We can’t change this lot and unless you want us to go on patrolling and shooting up the locals without any serious end game in sight, there is little point, as we’ve already honed our skills and use of the latest equipment.

    They’re right of course, because the recent problem(after the Cold War ended) always was and is Islam (Labour man Blair realised it most poignantly). After all, the bastards started hijacking our domestic airliners and flying them into our office blocks. Pretty difficult to turn the other cheek to that. What we do know now is, we can’t change their ways in a month of Sundays, unless you want to seriously Crusade and change Islam. Basically you have to take their mullahs out and shoot them and burn their mosques and Korans and convert them. To what? Secular liberalism? Not bloody likely and we haven’t got the christian clergy with the balls(Ratzinger anyone?) to back forced military conversion these days. Well, not at present we don’t but that could change fairly quickly. Basically we have to pull out, come home and wait for Islam to make the next move(Dunkirk anyone?). If they start mounting serious attacks on our home soil, from the EU to US to here, the game will change. We’ll naturally begin to partition the globe into ‘them and us’ as each side expels its non-believers and fifth columnists. A period of theocratic cleansing which has been well underway by Islam for many years now and to which we’ve only begun to respond. We will eventually take their hint and the tit for tat will begin in earnest. Israel is the model for us here. The question you have to ask yourself is- will Islam just be satisfied with infidel withdrawal from muslim lands? My feeling is, not bloody likely, but you may feel otherwise.

    As an aside here I have to say I was not particularly beholding to the notion that we could deal with the Saddams (our bastards) in a reasonable, pragmatic way over the long haul. In the end any Saddam, Shah, or Musharraff that gets too friendly with infidels will get his head lopped off. Witness Musharraf’s truce with the Taliban in Waziristan and as for the Ahmadinejads, what can you say? (mad mussies with nukes anyone?) That’s essentially why I supported the Beacon of Light question in Iraq and don’t personally want to shoot the messengers like some do, when the unequivocal answer came back and I didn’t like it. (at one stage there it did look like the Iraqis would make a fist of the window of opportunity to eschew dictators and whackers)

  26. October 20th, 2006 at 14:40 | #26

    observa – “After all, the bastards started hijacking our domestic airliners and flying them into our office blocks. Pretty difficult to turn the other cheek to that”

    So why did we not invade Saudi Arabia?

    “The question you have to ask yourself is- will Islam just be satisfied with infidel withdrawal from muslim lands? My feeling is, not bloody likely, but you may feel otherwise.”

    No probably not now we have killed 650 000 of them. The problems we have are a result of us wanting something they have – OIL. Since the discovery of extensive oil resources in these countries they have been occupied with regimes that are cooperative to sell oil to the west. Iraq is a result of the British drawing up lines in the sand making sure of course they had plenty of oil for WWII.

    This has nothing to do with religion or anything like it. Religion, like always, is just smokescreen to dehumanise the opposition so that killing job lots of them is OK.

  27. derrida derider
    October 20th, 2006 at 14:48 | #27

    Observa now you are at the stage that those of us who were reality based long ago predicted the more idealistic warmongers would come to, based on past history:
    “We went there with noble intentions but those barabarians didn’t deserve us. They’re just savage children. Exterminate the brutes!”

    (If you don’t understand the psychology at play here, read “Heart of Darkness” by Conrad)

    When such attempted extermination still leaves the natives insufficently grateful to us, and we have to leave, the next stage in ego-protection is the dolchstosslegende:
    “Despite appearances, we were actually winning but were undermined from within by a failure of will, led by the traitorous left”

    Of course, you are one step further than milano803, who still thinks the whole thing is a success.

    Observa, when in future years you look back on the Iraq misadventure, remember this post and resist the temptation to blame others for your own bloody mistakes.

  28. observa
    October 20th, 2006 at 14:48 | #28

    Just keep asking yourself what the conclusion- Saddam was the best option for these people- really means.

    If we wanted more oil we only had to lift the sanctions and deal more openly with Saddam Ender.

  29. October 20th, 2006 at 14:56 | #29

    observa – fair enough

  30. observa
    October 20th, 2006 at 15:00 | #30

    Oh and derrida presumably this post is about ‘ALL obvious truths finally stated’ and not just some conveniently selected, narrow ones, cherry picked for Iraq.

    Saddam was the best option for these people, Saddam was……

  31. Razor
    October 20th, 2006 at 16:05 | #31

    JQ – the Brigadier was misquoted, not just ‘claimed’ to have been misquoted, he WAS misquoted and Blair backed him up – sort of makes the post redundent.

    As for your view that this is all a terrible mistake, why? – because the enemy are fighting back? What did you expect them to do? Bush, Blair and Howard, as the three central leaders in the current operations have never promised a short war and few casualties. Decades of commitment are what is required – just because journalists think the enemy should have been defeated in a few years doesn’t make them right. The fact is that in Iraq plenty of the enemy are being killed and more and more Iraqi government troops are coming on line and more and more provinces re being handed over to Iraqi control. An increase operational tempo by the enemy is an indicator of a loss (think the Tet Offensive and the Walter Kronkite impact) The media are doing the enemy proud in portraying it as a losing battle. It is clear that it is going to take another couple of years in Iraq to get enough iraqi units up to taking on the fight themselves and probably another couple of years after that before they truely gain control. This is asymetric warfare – time and space in these battles are completely different from conventional warfare. Afghanistan is an even longer prospect. An example from Afghanistan – an Australian SAS patrol entered a village this year – the Village Elder asked the interpreter why it had been so long since the Russians had last been for a visit. Many things can be drawn from this example, just one being that communicating the mesage and winning the hearts and minds battles is not a thing that will take years but decades.

    What astounds me about those that say this is Vietnam again, (or Korea, Somalia etc) is that they appear to have no shame that the withdrawal from the Republic of South Vietnam (and those other countries, including the casefire in Korea) and the subsequent collapse lead to the deaths of hundreds of thousands and the loss of freedom and liberty for millions. And now they appear to want this to happen again purely in order to be able to say I told you so and see Bush/Blair/Howard/COW/NATO get a bloody nose, all at the expense of millions of innocent victims.

  32. frankis
    October 20th, 2006 at 17:12 | #32

    Give it up, please, Observa. “Islam flew planes into our towers!” or whatever it was you said above – being merely one rewording of what you always say – simply tells us all more about you than about the world beyond. Could I recommend to you Matt’s efforts above as a model of discourse for one of your (more rational) views?

  33. observa
    October 21st, 2006 at 04:38 | #33

    I’ll be more long winded for you frankis. Islam produced the mindset that flew planes into office towers, apart from all the like events we’ve come to associate with Islam from the Munich Olympics, Beslan, Bali, Madrid trains, London tube, Iraq, Egypt, Afghanistan, etc, etc. For many of us that is a systematic pattern that does not seem to be mirrored by Christians, Bhuddists or tribal Africans. True, Kamikazes come to mind but a bit before my time.

  34. observa
    October 21st, 2006 at 04:45 | #34

    Oh and some of us think of schools, trains, buses, office towers, police stations, nightclubs, etc as kinda ‘ours’ in the sense of civilisation and people going about their normal business. It’s why we’d like to see Iraqis and Afghanis, among many others enjoying the same.

  35. guthrie
    October 21st, 2006 at 06:42 | #35

    So Observa, you want to lump all muslims into the same group of suicidal maniacs who want to kill us all?

    Presumably you have not heard of the Tamil Tigers, who are reputed to use suicide bombers and not actually be Moslems? Wow, that seems strange. Imagine killing yourself if you arent a muslim…

  36. Hal9000
    October 21st, 2006 at 07:32 | #36

    I see that Ian ‘No Surrender’ Paisley has finally sat down with the Papists and signed up to power sharing. If one of the most notorious bigots of our time can give up on war as a way of resolving alternative religious views, maybe there is yet hope for Observa.

  37. frankis
    October 21st, 2006 at 09:24 | #37

    Yes, yes Observa we know. You’re for motherhood and office towers and Christianity, and against wickedness and evildoing and Islam. Your Old Testament faith good, others the spawn of the devil. Although Judaism probably also good; bugger. What does that book of sin the Koran say anyway? – you may not find anyone at your preferred rupertworldNEWS!.com reference site who knows.

    You want war on everything and a rapturous ascent into heaven for your goodself if martyred in battle against the other, evildoing faith? The other faith that is itself the majority religion of more than a billion peaceful peoples on Earth in point of ugly liberal fact. But where have we gone wrong do you think if at least half of all Australians and Americans would cringe to hear of your excited exhortations for more, much more, world religious war?

    Plenty of your fellow beneficiaries of western civilisation would also be capable of telling you that it’d be wiser to employ policing philosophies and the rule of law in pursuit of a small number of criminals, acknowledged as such by the vast majority of sovereign states today, Observa, than to foolishly go waging unholy jihad against what would quickly turn out to be your own sorry-arsed self.

  38. observa
    October 21st, 2006 at 10:38 | #38

    Good for you Guthrie getting my deliberate omission of the Tamils right. Mind you there’s some evidence they’re an out there, war-like, Hindu sect, influenced by Islam and fighting you know who, but let’s not quibble. You might have added the IRA, but of course even they were so revolted by the tactics of Islam, they gave it away and that’s saying something.

    Priceless aren’t they? These are the people who always believed the Saddams of this world were the best option for Muslims, whilst the likes of Blair, Bush, Howard and I wanted to believe otherwise and we’re the trogs when it looks like we were wrong. Now we have to learn to understand and work more closely with the Ahmadinejads of this world. Wasn’t that the bloke on the news this morning calling for Israel to be wiped off the map again? Well I suppose we could feed him Israel to placate him eh? That way he’ll leave us alone to write and teach self-flagellating histories of our wicked colonial ways and give us the absolution we so sorely need. We could dust off Saddam and put him back in power I suppose. Now if we could just find a populist Taliban strongman for Afghanistan.

  39. observa
    October 21st, 2006 at 11:44 | #39

    Frankis, I’m not arguing for more war but describing where we we are at at present. Essentially ‘our’ military are telling us they have no end game in sight in both Iraq and Afghanistan now and presumably our presence there is fuelling Islamic terrorism more generally. (feel free to reject that broad proposition right here) ‘We’ are not ones to flog dead horses and one way or another will ‘strategically withdraw’ (Dunkirk or Vietnam anyone?)to lick our wounds and consider our options. This is usually facilitated by a change of our govts and no doubt will be. That still leaves the new incumbents with the reality of dealing with the aftermath. Question is- what will that aftermath look like? According to you perhaps, things will have died down to normal and we’ll be policing a few criminals along with the international assistance of a billion or so peaceable Muslims. Ahmadinejad and Hezbollah will become as peacable as the IRA with the right dialogue and understanding of root causes and all will be sweetness and light between Hamas and Fatah as they forge the new 2 state solution in Palestine. Somalia and the Sudan likewise, while Musharraf leads Waziristan into the golden age.

    Perhaps not you say? Perhaps with hindsight Saddam was the best option in Iraq and Afghanistan should have been a brief, shock and awe, let that be a lesson to you, assault to get Osama, while punishing the Taliban for sheltering him. The fact that we didn’t follow that path is really not worth stewing over today.( Perhaps more specifically Australia has to pull out of ‘Muslim lands’ now in ET to clear the slate?)

  40. wbb
    October 21st, 2006 at 15:35 | #40

    events we’ve come to associate with Islam from the Munich Olympics, Beslan, Bali, Madrid trains, London tube, Iraq, Egypt, Afghanistan, etc, etc

    Thanks for the list, observa.

    Events We’ve come to firmly link link to the exclusion of anything else with Christianity:

    – Spanish Inquisition
    – Belfast
    – Burning of witches
    – Nuking of Hiroshima and Nagasaki
    – Colonisation of most of the world at various times
    – Colonisation of the rest of the world at the moment
    – Apartheid
    – Slavery
    – Endless European wars
    – Lynchings of black people
    – Lynchings of homosexuals
    – Genocide of Jews

    These are the only events I associate with Christianity. Obviously.

  41. frankis
    October 21st, 2006 at 16:03 | #41

    Saddam was never a best option of course; the question that’s been answered by us was “Is there an even dumber option?”

    I’m by nature of the “You broke it, you bought it” school of thought on foreign policy so I don’t see how we could just walk away from the Iraqis now. But clearly – it is clear – we should remove leaders who’ve screwed the pooch as comprehensively as ours have. Just picture how things like North Korea, to mention only the one that’s actually making the news and in our faces right now, have been allowed to go disastrously wrong while our good people have been distracted if not dying in a screwup of our own volition elsewhere.

    A terrorist out to attack our civilisation sees his prayers answered when we elect a village idiot (GW) or resident evil (Dick head) to highest office; we need to remove the guilty parties from power before we can begin to address the damage they’ve (we’ve) caused. By the way, that they are indeed scoundrels of the lowest order is demonstrated by their cries of “Treason!” against what’s possibly the majority of the populace who have by now seen through them.

    As the IRA’s been mentioned above the other cop-out that springs to mind as to what to do now would run something like the Irish joke that ends “Well I wouldn’t be starting from here!”

  42. stoptherubbish
    October 21st, 2006 at 16:37 | #42

    Budhist monks incinerated themselves as a political protest against the Diem regime in Vietnam in the 1960s. Do ya reckon they were influenced by Islam? Get a grip!

  43. guthrie
    October 21st, 2006 at 20:42 | #43

    Why, thanks for the sarcasm observa. You still havn’t said why you think itis right and good to lump a billion people under the label of “probably suicide bomber and anti-western zealot”.
    And anyway, for the IRA what would be the point of suicide? The modern incarnation has always been part gangster, and gansters are known for their atatchment to this world.

    Also, your black/ white sight shows up again. Wherever do you get the idea that “We” meaning people who are against bush and blair and their war on “evil”, think that Saddam is the best thing for IRaq?
    As frankis says, from our point of view he was the least worst option, but since you can hardly argue that us lefty liberal pansies have had any meaningful power for the past 30 years, you can hardly blame us for his continued existence and western support during the 80’s.

    I raise the question I have asked elsewhere- is it alright to kill and permit the killing of hundreds of thousands of people, as long as you are trying to save them? Or is it that if they do not accept that you are out to give them a better future, it doesnt matter if they get killed?

    So, when are you invading Burma? Groaning under an illegal military junta, who have impoverished many of their own people and waged war against native tribesmen. Go on, why not invade that next?

    As for teh aftermath of withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanisatn, it shall probably be the same as the last decade, for Afghanistan- they will probably fall into some kind of despotism again. With the usual cruelties and barbarities. WHich is what makes it so bad that you went into IRaq- theres plenty of people pointing out now that you would have had a much better chance at pacifying Afghanistan if you had had the troops on the ground and resources for rebuilding, instead of going into Iraq. You dont disupte that, do you?

  44. guthrie
    October 21st, 2006 at 23:27 | #44

    Or rather, not from our point of view he was the least worst option, more that he was what we’re stuck with, and yes, there are apparently worse options.
    HHMM. got to stop posting when I’m fresh out of bed and still half asleep.

  45. Spiros
    October 22nd, 2006 at 17:14 | #45

    “Bush, Blair and Howard, as the three central leaders in the current operations have never promised a short war and few casualties.”

    Razor, Bush declared victory in a triumphant speech on the USS Abraham Lincoln on May 1 2003, in front of a big banner that said “Mission Accomplished”. Surely you remember. It was in all the newspapers.

    The war’s been going pear-shaped, ever since.

  46. October 22nd, 2006 at 18:43 | #46

    This is definately worth a look:

    Sort of shatters the myth that these Iraqis can take over from the Americans

  47. observa
    October 22nd, 2006 at 23:34 | #47

    Sorry wbb, you must be a lot older than me to remember all that and indeed be responsible for it all. I guess only dementia eases the guilt in our old folks homes.

    STR, If Osama and Co just incinerated themselves like Bhuddist monks in protest at wicked, liberal, secular democracy, I reckon I along with a helluva lot of Iraqis, could learn to get over it and move on.

    I’ve given ‘our’ dilemma a bit of thought and reckon I’ve come up with a bit of a plan in order to move forward. The Anglos withdraw from Afghanistan to concentrate on their Iraq thingy, while Old Europe, the UN and Nato concentrate on their Afghanistan thingy. Nothing like a bit of healthy competition to produce the best outcomes I say. The French could even help implement a bit of post modern socialism to their multicultural stew, while the Anglos concentrate on Adam Smith and apple pie and see who comes up trumps. The Muslims can be the judge and we add up the score depending on the number of infidel victims and concomitant hits on pommy trains, Yankee office buildings, Paris cars and so forth.

  48. observa
    October 23rd, 2006 at 00:02 | #48

    Now whoever said the Observa was against all Muslims?
    Mind you she does have that whiff of the suicidal about her.

  49. Chris O’Neill
    October 23rd, 2006 at 01:49 | #49

    “It’s why we’d like to see Iraqis and Afghanis, among many others enjoying the same.”

    Clearly observa works for the Good Intentions Paving Company. They did the road to Hell.

  50. observa
    October 23rd, 2006 at 07:29 | #50

    Humblest apologies to wise isolationist pundits like Chris who always knew bringing them ‘here’ would end in tears

    ..whilst trying to go over ‘there’ and help risked getting our butts sued

    Between the Beazer and Howard stances poor old Chris is left scratching his head no doubt.

  51. Chris O’Neill
    October 23rd, 2006 at 14:22 | #51

    “lead to the deaths of hundreds of thousands”

    Good thing we stopped that happening in Iraq.

  52. Chris Daley
    October 23rd, 2006 at 20:11 | #52

    Observa, are you one of these conspiracy nuts that believe in the illuminati/one-world-government etc etc. How do you reconcile your paranoia about the government while at the same time support it’s senseless slaughter?

    But I digress, if only to call bulldust on your ludicrous insinuations that the LTTE is in anyway linked to moslem extremism. But what would I know, I’ve only worked in the goddamn country with Moselms, Tamils (Hindu and Christian) and Singhalese, spoken with them at length about the conflict and its source and seen it simmering away first-hand.

    But paranoia works like that, you see bogey-men under the bed, draw links that don’t actually exist and extoll nonsense one day and deny it the next. It would be easy to ignore people suffering from the same delusions as you, except there appear to be an alarmingly high number of equally deluded people in power.

  53. milano803
    October 24th, 2006 at 11:02 | #53

    “Razor, Bush declared victory in a triumphant speech on the USS Abraham Lincoln on May 1 2003”

    actually, he did not

    “in front of a big banner that said “Mission Accomplishedâ€?.”

    The USS Abraham Lincoln was returning home in May 2003 after a successful mission. How would that not be “Mission Acomplished”?

  54. jquiggin
    October 24th, 2006 at 11:38 | #54

    ‘The USS Abraham Lincoln was returning home in May 2003 after a successful mission. How would that not be “Mission Acomplishedâ€??”

    You are joking here, right, Milano? Has even the most shameless Republican shill ever suggested anything of the kind?

  55. Hal9000
    October 24th, 2006 at 11:38 | #55

    milano803 – from Bush’s own website http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2003/05/20030501-15.html


    “Major combat operations in Iraq have ended. In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed. ”

    “Your courage, your willingness to face danger for your country and for each other, made this day possible. Because of you, our nation is more secure. Because of you, the tyrant has fallen, and Iraq is free.”

    Translation – the war is over, and we won. Yeeha! BTW, and in case you missed the point, they lost.

    If that’s not a triumphant victory speech, the phrase has no meaning.

  56. frankis
    October 24th, 2006 at 11:45 | #56

    It’s an important point for sure milano so here, you get to choose which version – Bush’s, Rumsfeld’s or McClellan’s – you prefer the sound of ….. OK I’m lying about that because you’ll have no choice whatsoever but to go all the way with Scotty McClellan, heh!

    Al Kamen wrote in The Washington Post on Sunday: “Remember that great ‘Mission Accomplished’ banner on the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln on May 1, 2003, when President Bush dramatically landed there to give his speech announcing the end of ‘major combat operations’ in Iraq?

    “The White House said the banner was not its doing and must have been the Navy’s idea.

    “Now we find out, in Bob Woodward ‘s new book ‘State of Denial,’ that wasn’t the case. None other than Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld , on the record, tells Woodward that ‘I took ‘Mission Accomplished’ out’ upon reading a draft of the speech. ‘And I fixed it and sent it back. They fixed the speech,’ he said, ‘but not the sign.'”

    That even blows the White House’s cover story, when it came out that they had produced the banner themselves.

    You may recall that at an October 28, 2003 press conference , Bush said his staff was not responsible for the banner on the ship. “The ‘Mission Accomplished’ sign, of course, was put up by the members of the USS Abraham Lincoln, saying that their mission was accomplished,” he said. “I know it was attributed somehow to some ingenious advance man from my staff — they weren’t that ingenious, by the way.”

    But as Dana Milbank and Mike Allen wrote in the next day’s Washington Post: “White House press secretary Scott McClellan later acknowledged that the sign was produced by the White House. He said the warship’s crew, at sea for 10 months, had requested it. ‘The original idea for the banner was suggested by those on the ship,’ McClellan said. ‘They asked if we would take care of the production of the banner. The banner was a way to commemorate the sailors and crew onboard the ship and the fact that they had accomplished their mission after a lengthy deployment.”

    Now, of course, there’s reason to believe that wasn’t true either.

    from Dan Froomkin at http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/blog/2006/10/05/BL2006100500754_5.html

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